Years ago, I worked as the marketing director for a small auction firm that specialized in residential and commercial real estate. My first task on the list to modernize this family business was to create a completely new real estate website design.
The last time the look and functionality of the site had been updated was about a decade prior based on the stock photos, outdated color scheme, and inability of the website to perform any of the tasks that customers needed. To say the online presence was tired would be an understatement.
My background is in marketing and journalism, but I needed to learn the real estate business. I completed my state licensure and dove deep into the practices that realtors use to market and grow their businesses. In between approving new designs for an updated logo and creating brochures for direct mail, I launched the newly re-designed website.
There was good reason to make this project a priority. Marketing studies show that 38% of visitors will stop engaging with a website if the content or the layout doesn’t look good. What’s more, nearly half of the respondents cited a website’s design as the main factor when deciding whether a business was credible.
That’s right — the real estate auction company was being judged for its outdated online look, regardless of its ability to get sellers their asking price or connect buyers with the home or business location of their dreams. Chances are your real estate firm’s website is dealing with the same problem.
Of course, there’s a reason my boss kept putting off the project — it’s a big one to tackle.
Let me share what I’ve learned so you will feel confident in how to design your real estate website. In this guide, I’ll share six do’s and don’ts that you must follow as you work through your real estate website design project.
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Do: Make your website mobile-friendly
Although design plays a big role in your business branding work, the website must be able to work on any device a prospective buyer or seller uses. You won’t know if the person is going to be searching from their laptop while a baby is sleeping or if they’re checking out your listings while waiting in line at the store.
What you should know is that they are using digital means to search for real estate. The National Association of Realtors reported in a 2018 study that 99% of millennials (the typical first-home buyer) will search online for information as a first step to buying a home. Today, the older generations are also reaching for a device to start their search.
Whether you’re adding video walk-throughs or slideshow-style photo galleries as part of your real estate marketing plan, make sure your website works on smartphones and desktops.
Don’t: Try to include too much
It’s tempting to include a lot of localized information on your website, but adding lists of your favorite coffee shops or florists can distract your site visitors from what should be their focus: your listings.
Think about what is known as a call to action, or CTA. This should be the clear action that you’d like everyone who stops by your website to do. Perhaps you’d like them to sign up for your email list (more on this next), or maybe you want them to call you to schedule a meeting.
Closing the deal should be your priority. Make sure that your website provides the obvious steps to help you reach that goal. Use buttons and other eye-catching design tricks to direct people.
Do: Add an email sign-up opportunity
Email marketing can easily be integrated into a modern real estate website design — and if you don’t have an email list, now’s the time to start. This marketing initiative has an amazingly high return on investment: $42 for every $1 spent.
To create and build your real estate email list, add a pop-up box to your website that encourages your prospective buyers or sellers to sign up. You can offer a free local guide, tips for preparing a home for the market, or another valuable tool in exchange for their email address.
Then, you can easily connect with these qualified leads through an email marketing automation campaign. At least once a month — once a week is even better — you can schedule an email to share helpful information they’ll appreciate. Campaign ideas can include home maintenance tips, local community news, and market trends.
Don’t: Break the law
Of course, each state’s real estate commission has different regulations overseeing marketing and advertising. As you are learning how to design a real estate website, don’t forget the importance of making sure everything is above the law.
The National Association of Realtors has a written internet advertising rule that’s worth reviewing; if you’re working with a third-party designer, make sure they know about the rules, too. This includes listing your brokerage clearly on every page that includes listings or property information. If you’re doing business as another name, you’ll need to make sure it matches what is on your state licensure.
Do: Use the same design for all marketing materials
Real estate website design demands so many decisions. You have to figure out what color scheme you prefer, the best font to highlight your style, the types of photos you want to include, and, of course, what logo works for your agency.
Thankfully, you can save time by creating a branding look that works for both your website and all the rest of your marketing materials. Use the same design elements on your real estate business cards, letterhead, brochures, and newspaper and digital advertisements. Make it easy for your clients to recognize your materials and get comfortable with you as their agent.
Don’t: Forget to integrate social media
Some real estate agents think they can rely on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media channels to build an online presence. I disagree. These platforms can be powerful drivers, but they should be integrated with the sole purpose of bringing more traffic to your website.
With a website, you’ll have complete control over how you present yourself. You won’t ever have to worry about being locked out or overrun by hackers trying to sell cheap sunglasses through you. Use your social media as a tool, but not as your main identity.
That being said, social media is an important part of a comprehensive real estate marketing plan. To make sure you’re not missing other elements, check out Constant Contact’s The Download. This is a real-estate-focused guide to marketing that’s free and fast.
Real estate website design made easy
Ready to get started? A real estate website design project is a good use of your time to update your branding and connect with prospective buyers and sellers. You can focus on your target audience and highlight your specialties and expertise.
As a first step, I recommend scrolling through real estate websites — both local and national — that you like. Make a list of features you’d like to include. Talk to your clients to find out what they’d like, and create a realistic timeline to meet those needs. Before long, your online presence will be fresh, and your client list will grow!